SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The 15th Annual Buddy Walk of South Plainfield took place this past weekend at Putnam Park. Organized by borough residents Michelle and Keith Both, the family-friendly event not only promoted awareness and inclusion of people with Down syndrome but also raised money for research and education programs. 

This year’s walk, held on Oct. 6, saw 28 teams and close to 650 participants, raising approximately $30,000 for the National Down's Syndrome Society (NDSS), Central NJ Down Syndrome Parent Advocacy Group, Network 21 and the Lumind Foundation. Donations, which are being accepted through the end of October, also go to create packets/gift baskets for new parents of children with Down syndrome. 

“This event is important because it provides an opportunity for families to meet others who are also on this journey,” said Michele. 

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The 15th annual walk featured fun activities for all ages. Music was provided throughout the day from Magic 98.3 and there were raffles, special costumed characters, balloon art, and food and merchandise vendors. Among those who participated were Heidi Leigh, Scentsy; Cathy Herman, Touchstone; Judy Mankowski, doTerra; Tamara Winsmann, Rodan & Fields; Lisa Doren, handmade crafts; Laura Kraft, beauty; Agnieszka Gorska, Thermomix; and Bashir Nurid-din, Nichet, along with Outback Steakhouse of Green Brook, Maglione's Italian Ices and TapSnap.

I would like to thank my family and friends who have supported us through this 15 year journey with Kyle and helping us create acceptance and awareness of individuals with Down syndrome,” said Michele. 

The first Buddy Walk, organized by the National Down Syndrome Society, took place in 1995 with the goal of celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October. The Boths, whose second son, Kyle, was born with Down's syndrome, attended their first walk in 2003 and, the following year, brought the awareness event to their community. 

Over the past 15 years, the South Plainfield event has grown, with participants throughout New Jersey as well as New York and Pennsylvania coming out in support of the cause. 

 “As long as I can, this walk will continue so that new families feel they can come to an event and be welcomed with open arms,” Michele said, adding, “It is a scary feeling thinking that your child may be treated differently because of how they were born.”

The Buddy Walk of South Plainfield is also hosting a Fall Fundraiser at the Stage House Tavern on Saturday, Oct 27. From 7 to 10 p.m., guests can enjoy a buffet dinner and one free drink. There will also be entertainment by Flounder. The cost is $30 per person and tickets are available by contacting Michele Both at (908) 531-5100/bwofsouthplainfield@hotmail.com. 

The 16th Annual Buddy Walk of South Plainfield is planned for Saturday, Oct. 5 2019. For more information or to make a donation, contact Michele or visit www.buddywalkofsouthplainfield.com. For information on the National Down Syndrome Society, visit https://www.ndss.org/play/national-buddy-walk-program

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